Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10Q Tuesday with Cassandra Dean!

Morning Person or Night Person? How do you know? I’ve always been a night person. For some reason, I must stay up past midnight every day.

Actually I tell a lie, I do know the reason! I don’t like it when your life becomes about your day job, where you get up, have breakfast, go to work, come home, have dinner and then go to bed. Thus, I stay up to the crack of sparrow to delude myself into thinking I have some semblance of a life. I think it’s a losing battle, but I’ll keep you posted on my status…

In addition, I find I do my best work at night. Something about the dark, about the lack of distractions because even the birds are asleep, fires my creativity. Yay for night!

What are your favorite TV shows? Ohhh, so many. So very many. I love Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel as they were created by writing god, Joss Whedon, as well as being super awesome shows in their own right(ditto for Firefly and Dollhouse, although the later was less successful, in my opinion). I won’t miss Doctor Who and LOVE Supernatural (very buffyesque). I’m also crushing on a show from England, Misfits. It’s absolutely brilliant and has not yet set a foot wrong.

Sadly, I also love Gossip Girl. So shameful to admit such! However,I defy anyone to watch the star-crossed lover saga of Chuck and Blair over the first two seasons and not develop an unholy love for the show. Go on, I dare you…

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who? As mentioned, I have insane love for Mr Joss Whedon. His stories resonate with me and I think he is just brilliant. Evocative, smart, witty dialogue, intense emotion, the absolute impossibility to look away...How could you not admire such? Whedon creates some of the most compelling characters in the world of fiction and if I have even smidge of his talent, I would consider myself well satisfied.

Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career? My very good friend, Lucy Clark (www.lucyclark.net), has helped me immeasurably since I began this caper. Generous with her time, her knowledge and her friendship, I can’t thank Lucy enough for all her help. Any time I feel down in the dumps, she bucks me up. Any time I have an achievement, she's there to to cheer me on. Any time I desperately need some advice on that passage I’m convinced makes absolutely no sense, Lucy is there to help me out. Thanks, F4E!!

How did you start your writing career? I've always wanted to be a writer from the time when first I learned to write. I never thought I could actually obtain such – that was for way cooler people. In my final year of University, I undertook a course in short story writing which led to me joining a romance writing group and meeting my awesome critique partner and friend, Lucy Clark.

I endeavoured to undertake a career where writing featured but this never eventuated and instead I fell into a career in finance. I didn’t give up on my dream, however, and wrote an opus which I promptly sent out to publishers only to get rejected. So I sent it out again. Again rejected. Sent it out to agents. Got rejected. Sent out another story. Got rejected. Tell you what, certainly not fun to get rejected!

Finally, Decadent Publishing gave me a chance and very soon I will realise my dream to be a published author. Thanks, Decadent Publishing!

Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it? Yes, I do use a pen name! I had always thought I would use a pseudonym when I became published. One day, I was perusing the books in a (now-defunct) local department store and my eyes were level with books by authors whose last name began with 'D'. My real last name begins with a letter in the lower reaches of the English alphabet and at the time I thought that would be a detriment. Now, with the advent of epublishing, such a consideration is pretty pointless but by this stage the name had stuck!

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula? I don't have a set formula as such. Generally, I think of a ‘you beaut’ idea for a book and then I think about it. I think some more. And some more. I think about the protagonists. About what makes them tick, their defining characteristic. Then I might write the first couple of scenes - these aren't the first sequential scenes, just the ones which first occur to me. Then I think about it some more. Then I try to imagine all the questions a reader might have in regards to what I've already written and fill those plot holes. Then I think some more.

As you can see, there is a lot of thinking.

I've found that writing the scenes that occur to me rather than sequentially works for me. This way, I get the most emotionally charged scenes first, the main turning points, and I have the most time to work on them. This, of course, is what works for me. Everyone has their own process and what might be right for me may not necessarily work for you!

What is the hardest part of writing your books? Writing them. Sounds silly, I know. To paraphrase Nora Roberts, you can fix a bad page, you can't fix a blank page. However, to get to that bad page...The effort involved is huge. Seriously, why does anyone undertake this caper??

The worst feeling in the world is staring at a blank page and wondering how on earth you’re going to fill it. You can see the story in your head but you don't know how to get what you see onto the page. However, once this happens and I start to play with what I've written, well that's just the best feeling in the world. Now I remember why I undertake this caper!

What do you think makes a good story? How strong an emotional connection the story engenders in the reader. For me, the absolute sign you have a successful story on your hands is when your reader absolutely MUST KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!! The reader feels an intense connection with the characters, with their journey, and are positively hanging to discover what is on the next page.

As Joss Whedon says (there’s that name again!), “don’t give your audience what they want, give them what they need”. Your audience may hate you for killing off their favourite character but if you do it right, they won’t be able to look away. They may despise you for putting your hero and heroine through hell, but their eyes will be glued to the page. They may curse your name, but if at the end they will never forget your novel because of the emotions it wrung from them, I say job well done.

Without spoiling the last episode of Angel, I may have shouted at the screen when it abruptly cut to black but I tell you, I have never forgotten that episode or how satisfying that ending was. Oh Joss, you do rock…and I hope I can emulate some of your awesomeness in my own writing.

Tell us about your next release. Enslaved is an historical romance set in Ancient Rome, containing slaves and gladiator games and other fun Roman stuff.

Lucia is in love with a slave. A gladiator in her father’s ludus, her slave is forced to her side to learn of the gods and their legends. Now, Lucia is to be married and taken far from him.

Her husband is a fine figure of a man and he makes in her a daughter and a son. She drifts through life, formless, until her husband sets her aside, until she wanders unknowing into a market and spies the man she thought never to see again.

Now emotion is alive in her once more and it seethes. Her love, her gladiator, has returned and the truth, the one she had always hidden, is forced upon her.

She has never forgotten her slave.

The inspiration popped into my head while watching the very awesome Spartacus: Blood and Sand…It could also have something to do with the half-naked pretty people running around. I wrote the first draft in a flurry of creation over three days, which was a new experience for me – nothing has ever flowed that quickly before. Lucia and Marcus’s story consumed me and I love it to pieces. I hope all you enjoy it too!

Cassandra Dean



Kathleen said...

We must be on the same schedule, Cassandra. I am up posting on the blogs after midnight regularly. I do some of my best work when everyone has gone to bed.

I enjoyed getting to know more about you. Best wishes for your release.


Maureen said...

Yes, Joss Whedon is a god of fast dialogue! Great role model!

JM said...

Ok, you had me at Joss Whedon. Be all and end all... Great post!

Cassandra Dean said...

Kathleen, thanks for your wellwishes! I'm also chuffed to know other people find after midnight the bestest time to work :D

Cassandra Dean said...

Maureen and Jennifer, glad to see you also worship at the alter of Joss! He is a phenomenal writer and when I'm stuck creatively, I ask myself WWJD*?

Thanks for your comments!

*What Would Joss Do?

Kat Smit said...


I am a long time follower of your blog and writing.

A million congrats on the publishing of your novel. I'm all but holding my breath, waiting to get a copy.

On Joss Whedon (God of Witticisms), When I hit a wall of frustration, I call to mind one particular quote:

"I'm a leaf on the wind... watch how I soar"